Updated: Dec 11, 2020
A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning:
If ever we needed an expanded College Football Playoff, this is the year. In this season of opt-outs, cancellations, Big Ten (Plus Four) stupidity, the Pac-12 following the Big Ten (Plus Four) like a lost puppy only to discover that who it was following is lost, conference-only schedules and teams all but going under financially, we need something other than the same old, same old.
Oh, there is some excitement but it doesn’t really involve the schools from the power conferences, who are once again thumbing their noses at the Group of Five and locking them out of the playoff. Would anyone in the Power Five be bold enough to do what BYU and Coastal Carolina did by scheduling a game on a Wednesday and playing it on Saturday, knowing fully well that one of them would lose its shot at a perfect season? Of course not. There aren’t enough athletic directors with big enough nads or foresight to do something like that on such short notice.
Do you think for even one second that Iowa State will ever consider scheduling a game with Louisiana-Lafayette after the way the Rajin Cajuns poleaxed them (31-14) on their home field? And can you tell me how it is that Iowa State (8-2) from the Big 12 (Minus Two) is ranked 12 places higher in the College Football Playoff Poll than the Rajin Cajuns? The Big 12 (Minus Two), by the way, is oh-fer-three against the Fun Belt Sun Belt, whose best team (Coastal Carolina, 10-0) didn’t even start playing football until 2010 and only joined Division I in 2017.
Urban Meyer, who is a rather accomplished evaluator of football talent, says that 8th-ranked Cincinnati (8-0) is very capable of playing with and beating a lot of ranked teams from the Power Five. Yet, when the most recent poll came out, the Bearcats moved down a spot and Iowa State moved up one. What do you read from that? Well, start with the fact the committee is all but freezing the Group of Five out. There are only four spots in the playoff and in a year in which every Power Five team is taking a huge financial hit, they’re not about to give a Group of Five team a slice of the playoff pie.
That’s why the playoff will configure in one of these ways barring a miracle of the walls of Jericho tumbling down proportions:
Scenario 1, which you can bet is preferred by ESPN: Alabama (11-0 SEC), Notre Dame (10-1 ACC), Clemson (10-1 ACC) and Ohio State (6-0 Big Ten Plus Four)
In this scenario Alabama beats Florida, Notre Dame loses a squeaker to Clemson and Ohio State beats Northwestern.
Scenario 2, which ESPN can live with: Florida (10-1 SEC), Alabama (10-1 SEC), Notre Dame (11-0 ACC) and Ohio State (6-0 Big Ten Plus Four)
In this scenario, Florida beats Alabama but Alabama gets in as a wild card, Notre Dame beats Clemson and Ohio State beats Notre Dame.
Scenario 3, which ESPN can also live with: Florida (10-1 SEC), Alabama (10-1 SEC), Notre Dame (10-1 ACC) and Clemson (10-1 ACC)
In this scenario, Florida beats Alabama but Alabama gets in as a wild card. Clemson beats Notre Dame in a squeaker and Ohio State loses to Northwestern.
Essentially, we are going to get more of the same of what we’ve gotten every year of the playoff. The SEC gets one or two teams in. The ACC could get two in because Notre Dame is playing in a conference for the first time in school history. Ohio State is in from the Big Ten (Plus Four).
Think how much more exciting it would be to let one or two teams in from the Group of Five this year? Wouldn’t it be more fun to give Cincinnati and perhaps Coastal Carolina in? What if they won a game or two? What if one of them made it to the championship game? Do you remember when Butler made it to the NCAA basketball championship game two straight years? Do you remember when Coastal Carolina won the NCAA baseball title?
There is still a place for Cinderella in our sports culture. In a year in which things have gone sideways, we need a potential Cinderella story. The best way to do it would have been to expand the playoff but that’s not going to happen. Back in August or September it could have been done. Now it’s too late.
But it should have happened this year. If not this year, then next year would be just fine.
DAN MULLEN ON THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
On the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday, Florida coach Dan Mullen sounded off about the playoff, playing 10-game SEC schedule plus the conference championship game. What he said could have been taken as a veiled slap at Ohio State, which seems assured to get into the playoff having played only six games:
“The playoff committee, they’ve put emphasis on playing a strong schedule; they’ve put emphasis on conference championships; they’ve put emphasis on those things. I know that’s just how it’s been played out. I do think it’s been pretty unique this year that within the league – not just us, everybody – we’re playing a 10-game SEC schedule. For us, we’re going to have an 11th conference game with the SEC Championship Game. Playing 11 SEC teams. That’s never been done before, and obviously, this is the toughest conference and the best conference in all of college football. And so, it’d be interesting to see how they perceive what teams are doing in this league and having to play the games and, you know, actually playing the games. At the end, we’ll see if you get rewarded for playing such a tough schedule and taking on that challenge that’s never been done before in this league.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS NOT WHAT’S FAIR
Wednesday morning the Big Ten (Plus Four) Conference voted to rescind its six-game minimum requirement so that 5-0 Ohio State, which has played only once in the last three weeks, can play in the league championship game against 14th-ranked Northwestern. The Big Ten (Plus Four) issued a statement claiming that the decision was made after “competitive analysis” which determined that if Ohio State could have played six games the Buckeyes certainly would have won, therefore advancing to the championship game.
Of course, this isn’t the least bit fair to 12th-ranked Indiana (6-1), which lost by a touchdown to Ohio State a few weeks back, but fairness never was part of this equation. No matter how the Big Ten (Plus Four) tries to spin it, the only analysis that was done here was about how much money the league would lose if Ohio State can’t make the College Football Playoff. Fairness and integrity never entered into the discussion.
This is just the latest in a series of missteps for the Big Ten (Plus Four). First they canceled football, all in the name of player safety and doing the right thing. Quite stupidly, the league said it was going to play in the spring. So you play two football seasons in one calendar year in the interest of player safety? Right. When the SEC, ACC, Big 12, American, Conference USA and Sun Belt failed to follow their lead, the Big Ten (Plus Four) hastily set up a schedule that required teams to play eight straight weeks with no room for makeup dates. Yes, indeedy, this is the league that cares about player safety and once again the true colors of the Big Ten (Plus Four) have been exposed.
Has any conference commissioner in the history of college sports had a worse rookie year than Kevin Warren of the Big Ten (Plus Four)?
RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC
#1 ALABAMA (9-0): Alabama has already been established as a 14.5-point favorite to beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
ARKANSAS (3-6): Feleipe Franks is practicing but is not 100% so it will be a game-time decision whether he plays against Alabama.
AUBURN (5-4): Redshirt freshman linebacker O.C. Brothers has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. A former 3-star recruit who was originally committed to UCF, Brothers played in two games last year and in one this year.
#9 GEORGIA (6-2): Wide receiver Makiya Tongue confirmed reports from last week that he is entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal. The redshirt freshman is a former 4-start recruit from Baton Rouge. With LSU’s scholarship numbers way down, it would seem Tongue is likely to head home to see if he can get on the field.
LSU (3-5): In an effort to convince the NCAA there is no need to drop the hammer on the football program, LSU has self-imposed a bowl ban for 2020 (all Division I schools are eligible no matter their records this year). LSU already self-imposed a reduction of scholarships and banning Odell Beckham Jr. from facilities for multiple years. Basketball is also under NCAA investigation and what happened in hoops under Will Wade makes the football violations seem like Romper Room.
#25 MISSOURI (5-3): Running back Larry Rountree III has moved into second place in Missouri’s all-time rushing list with 3,583 yards. Rountree, who has run for 835 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, has scored 37 rushing TDs in his career.
TENNESSEE (2-6): Tight end Jordan Allen, who has also played linebacker since arriving in Knoxville from a California junior college, is entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Allen has not caught a pass in his Tennessee career.
#5 TEXAS A&M (7-1): Unless there are some upsets among the four teams ranked ahead of the Aggies, they won’t make the College Football Playoff. That prompted HBC Jimbo Fisher to say Wednesday, “Inevitably (the playoff) has to grow to make sure you’re getting everyone in that you need to get in.”
THEY SAID IT
Clay Travis of Outkick.com on why Title IX advocates aren’t pushing for football to be declared a co-ed sport after Sarah Fuller broke down the sex barrier for the college game by kicking off for Vanderbilt a few weeks back: “If women started playing football – even a little bit – then that opens the door for the argument that football isn’t an exclusively male sport. And that could be detrimental to women’s sports.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on the cancellation of the Michigan-Ohio State game and the future of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: “How weird would it be if Michigan Jim Harbaugh’s last game as coach of the Wolverines was in late November and nobody knew it? Even if his team is able to play Dec. 19, Harbaugh could be the first Michigan coach whose final Big Ten game wasn’t against Ohio State since Tad Wieman in 1928.”
Blake Topplemeyer of the Knoxville News-Sentinel on Tennessee’s propensity for firing coaches and then spending years paying off their buyouts: “Tennessee led the nation in reported severance for the 2018 fiscal year because it fired (Butch) Jones, his football staff and athletic director John Currie that year. UT’s athletic department reported $13.8 million in severance expenses that year. That figure reflected severance paid before June 30, 2018, and estimated money owed to those fired individuals after that date.”
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated on whether some NFL team will take a chance to lure Jim Harbaugh away from Michigan: “So if an NFL team were to land Harbaugh, what would they be signing up for? It’s all right there. He’s Bill Parcells. He’ll come in, shake things up and offer an immediate return on your investment. Yes, maybe four years down the line, he’ll have worn people out and started to eye the door. But there are lots of teams that would sign up for a couple of 11- or 12-win seasons, understanding that things might get awkward down the line.”
THE THURSDAY PITHY COMMENT: I can’t remember who it was who told me this way back when but the comment was, “Will Rogers says he never met a man he didn’t like. Well, Will Rogers never met Ray Perkins.” Perkins, who died Wednesday morning (he was 79) and whose personality rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way, is the perfect example of why you never want to follow a coaching legend (he followed Bear Bryant). Perkins was 32-15-1 as Alabama’s head coach. Upon leaving Alabama, he coached the Tampa Bay Bucs but had the good sense this time to succeed Leeman Bennett rather than follow John McKay, who retired after the 1984 season.